Former Million Dead front man Frank Turner is an artist who divides opinion. Punk Rock purists resent his political ideologies because they no longer apply to the militant leftism that is synonymous with Punk where as Folk fans clamour for tickets at sell out shows globally. The good news is when the music is as consistently good as Frank's is then there really shouldn't be any need for political standpoints to cloud a music fan's judgement.
Arriving fashionably late to Leeds O2 academy I found the place to be packed already with more than several people already well on their way to a Tuesday morning hangover from hell. After a brief but sweaty fifteen minute wait Frank Turner and his backing band The Sleeping Souls took to the stage with their usual gusto and aplomb. Opening with one of his more recent songs I Am Disappeared was a sure fire way to get the crowd going; and get the crowd going it did. During the first four songs not once did the crowd relent, singing back every word to every song as though it were an encore. The energy with which both Frank and the Sleeping Souls perform with is a joy to watch and the rapport he has with his fans is something only someone truly passionate about their music can hold down. His set was peppered with moments of occasional poignancy, such as the track Long Live the Queen from second album Love Ire & Song which was a welcome addition to the set list and Isabel which is a personal favourite of mine. Another highlight of the night came in the form of Wessex Boy from the most recent album England Keep My Bones. There was something strangely charming about hearing a room full of people in West Yorkshire sing with such sincerity about hailing from the south of England. Although that isn't to say any sense of locality was lost amongst fans who, on more than one occasion, started chanting “Yorkshire” as if just to clarify and remind Frank just exactly where he was. As well as fan favourites there were three new songs taken from his as-of-yet untitled new album; Plain Sailing Weather; Anymore and Three Little Words, of which the latter two are particularly good. Three Little Words could easily be the leading single from the aforementioned album which is due next year. It was a shame to see the ever-popular Ballad of Me and My Friends left out from the set given that the American leg of the tour got to hear it. That said however he has specified in the past he doesn't want to play it live for whatever reasons (another point of contention amongst fans and critics alike). The traditional three-song encore was nothing short of fantastic. It started with his most recent single If Ever I Stray which got perhaps the loudest sing along of the night save for the next song, a rousing rendition of Photosynthesis which as ever, was superb. Since the aforementioned Ballad... was dropped the climax of the show came in the form of a Hardcore version of Dan's Song which while perhaps not as resonant as Ballad...was entertaining nevertheless.
Frank Turner is someone who is consistently good at what he does. He knows how to work a crowd and enjoys himself while he's doing it. He may have critics in the form of jaded Million Dead fans who think his departure from Punk and from leftist politics was a poor decision and one which has been led by money at that, but those people are blinded by ideals and image. Why should personal political belief be an integral part of an artist who has already “hung up his banner”? His gig's aren't political discussion forums, they're places for people to get together as strangers and enjoy his music as one. And as long as he keeps making it, that's what people are going to do.